Why You Need Branded Content (and How To Get It Right)

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Branded content is a vital piece in your marketing strategy jigsaw puzzle. You may have questions about where to show off your branded content, what makes the best branded content, and how you can create it. 

We’re here to answer all these questions and more. In this guide, we’ll break down what branded content is and why it’s necessary. Here’s what we’re going to cover: 

Branded content is still a new idea in the field of marketing. It can be tricky to tell branded content and content marketing apart sometimes. Branded content is powerful when done right, so how do you do it?

Branded content is content that speaks the values and the vision of your company. It is not a pen with your logo scrawled on it. That would be branded ‘stuff.’ Branded Content is a message that resonates with your target audience. 

It generates a conversation and an emotional response. People remember how you make them feel, so your branded content needs to leave them feeling happy, intrigued, and energized to take action.

Branded content is an experience. It adds value to a user’s understanding of your product, services, and your brand as a whole. It relies heavily on storytelling tools and techniques and utilizes multiple channels of distribution.

We’ve talked about content marketing already and how good it is for your brand and your message. 

Just to refresh you, content marketing is:

A strategy — a plan of action to utilize your content in a marketing campaign.

It is a verb — Marketing is a doing word. It includes steps taken by you to promote yourself, your business, and your brand to increase your profit, your customers, and your reach.

It is an umbrella term that can include branded content.

It uses different kinds of content for branding.

Goals of Branded Content 

The main goals of branded content are: 

To generate engagement with your audience, have a conversation with them and leave a positive impression. You want people to remember you fondly and to tell their friends about you.

You want your brand top of mind when people think of a thing. Do you want to hire a vehicle to get you from A to B? The first thing you think of is Uber. The brand name is used as a verb.

Ultimately, you want your content shared to improve your brand’s position and get your message out to the world.

Like all forms of marketing out there, the main goals of content marketing are:

Increase customers and web traffic.

Increase conversions and hence your profit.

To achieve a positive Return on Investment.

For all its newness, there are still some defined differences between Branded content and Content marketing.

Content marketing is intended for an audience.

Branded content is about highlighting the message of the business.

As with all marketing campaigns, you determine your target audience, your segments, the tone of voice that connects with them and then fire off your campaign to get results.

Branded content can be a part of this campaign, as mentioned above, but it is more than just a piece of a campaign. It is an artifact with a message, your message, that connects with your brand’s values and carries that message to the world.

Content marketing has a slower speed to gain loyalty.

Branded content can instantly grab followers and a Tribe.

Content marketing follows a strategy, a timeline. You plan and execute, measure the results over time, collect the data, analyze it, and then determine the wins and losses, reset and go again.

Branded content can strike like lightning. It lands in the world with your message, and people pick it up quickly and run with it. They tell their friends, and your tribe is born.

Content marketing is an overall idea or plan with a story, a message, and a purpose.

Branded content relies primarily on storytelling.

There is a mix to content marketing. What is in that mix determines the end product?

Branded content is a story you tell the world about you, your company, and the message for the world.

Content marketing promotes a Call-to-Action.

Branded content promotes an emotional response.

You want results with your marketing campaign. You implement your plan, test and measure, encourage your target audience to CLICK HERE or BUY NOW or SUBSCRIBE FOR MORE.

Branded content is about provoking an emotional response to your brand to make your brand message memorable. It is not directly related to making money or growing your list. That will happen naturally afterward.

A great example of branded content is the Lego Movie. Launched in 2014, starring Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman, and a whole host of other A-list stars as the voices for a wide variety of animated Lego Mini-figures, this film was 1 hour and 40 minutes of glorious storytelling using Lego.

An excellent example of content marketing is Canva. An Australian company, Canva, has grown by placing their customer’s problems at the heart of their strategy. Have trouble with graphic content for your marketing? Never fear! They have templates, video guides, and more, all free. The best stuff is behind a paywall, which is standard practice, but you can get so much value from their free stuff.

We have more examples of content marketing on our blog. Click through and have a read.

Track and Analyze Brand Mentions

with Brand Monitoring

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Instagram is a still-growing social media platform and is an ideal place for your branded content.

Some stats, compiled by SM Perth, can help you see the picture:

Over 1 billion users per month.

The average time spent on Instagram by users is 53 minutes.

#love is the most used hashtag on Instagram.

130 million clicks on SHOPPING posts each month.

More than 50% of users EXPLORE content on Instagram.

We could wow you with even more stats, but let’s get down to some nuts and bolts.

Facebook defines branded content as “a creator or publisher’s content that features or is influenced by a business partner for an exchange of value.” Here’s an example:

A 3rd party, such as a social media influencer, uses company-branded products in their social media posts. The Influencer must produce original content using branded material, and the brand must approve it.

Example of branded content from Instagram.

The tools include a way to tag businesses and their products. This sends an alert to those businesses so they can approve the use of their Branded Content. It also provides insights and statistics of engagement with the Creator’s posts using that Branded Content.

Instagram provides a step-by-step guide on using the Branded Content Tool and gives examples of what it looks like. 

If you’re a business looking to have your products and content shared by Influencers, you give other people permission to tag your product in their posts when they use it and share it with their followers.

You receive an alert when this happens, and you can approve the post if it aligns with your brand’s message.

We have an excellent article to read explaining WHY you need your brands on Instagram. Read it here —Your best content should reside on Instagram.

When creating a post for Instagram, on the screen where you write your blurb, including all your hashtags and more, there are ‘Advanced Settings.’ You can tag your Business Partner, allow them to promote your posts, and even set a minimum age for posted content.

Instagram has a step-by-step guide here.

Facebook is arguably the biggest and most influential social media platform of our age. The stats, compiled by Oberlo, backing this statement up are staggering.

  • Facebook has 1.84 billion daily active users.
  • Facebook is the leading social platform, reaching 59% of social media users. 
  • 63% of the US population aged 12+ say they use Facebook. 
  • 86% of marketers are using Facebook for advertising. 
  • 78% of American consumers have discovered retail products to buy via Facebook. 

It is a massive market and one you need to consider for your marketing strategy.

Very similar to Instagram’s branded content. It is content created by a creator or business, which is used for marketing purposes. Others can reference this content but must be upfront about it. It will appear as a Paid Partnership.

Example of branded content on Facebook.

The first step you need to take is to ask permission from Facebook to be a Sponsor or a Creator. Facebook generally says yes, but they do like brand pages that publish a lot of good content, such as video or blog content.

When an influencer uses branded content in a sponsored post and is paid for such content, they MUST state it is a partnership. It is the influencer’s responsibility to do this. If you don’t disclose this information, Facebook will come down hard.

An influencer cannot randomly tag a brand, hoping to get free stuff. You must have a partnership with that brand before you post branded content.

The tool used for this feature is called the Brand Collabs Manager. With it, you tag the brand in your post. That brand gets an alert and can approve or not, much the same way Instagram manages it.

Create a post as per usual.

There will be an option to Tag Sponsor.

This brings up a WITH field.

Fill this out and then await approval from your sponsor.

If you have a good working relationship with your Sponsor, they may list you as an Approved Influencer and won’t need to wait for approval. However, if a post gets rejected, you will have your automatic posting privileges removed.

Like all marketing campaigns, you need to know what you want to achieve before you begin; this way, you will be able to measure success or failure and redirect your marketing accordingly.

This is a tricky element to determine. Unlike content marketing, where you can choose seasonal times, days of the week, or time of day, Branded content relies more on when you need your story heard.

If you have a powerful story that needs to be told, if you want to build a loyal fan base, you need to consider a branded content strategy. You launch it now and make sure that all content following sticks to the voice and tone and feel of the strategy.

Who are you telling your story to? Who needs to hear your message? Knowing the answers to these questions establishes the tone of voice and how the message is delivered.

Research other businesses that are competing in your space. Look at what they do, and then you do it better. Find out what your competitors are not doing and fill that niche.

Get a feel for the branded content they are using. How does it make you feel? What do they want you to do? Can you deliver the message better? Or is your message a counterpoint to theirs?

What is the voice of your brand? Are you empathetic, caring, and sincere? Is your brand confidant and authoritative? Are you persuasive, funny, and amusing?

Semrush can help you determine your tone of voice with this article on how to define your tone of voice.

Now you’ve done the groundwork, it’s time to get your voice heard. Here are some tips to promote your content:

Make your content desirable.

Make your content shareable.

Use keywords in your content to increase the power of it when it is shared.

Hit the social media channels multiple times.

Reach out to your loyal fans.

Doing the same thing over and over again dilutes the message you’re trying to get out to the world. Your audience will become immune to the message, and the platforms you use will lessen your reach.

You need to diversify your channels, switch things up, rock the boat a little. How?

ALWAYS measure your campaigns. Analyze the data your campaigns generate. How many likes did you get? How many shares? How about click-throughs? How many sales were made from your campaign?

You can use our Social Media Toolkit, which allows you to fully workflow your social strategy.

semrush social media tracker dashboard

To keep track of your references and coverage, there’s also our Brand Monitoring Tool to monitor your brand’s presence.

semrush brand monitoring dashboard

How do you know that what you’re creating is any good? Here are some ideas for you:

It must have originality.

Give it an “‘M. Night‘ Shyamalan” Twist.

Create an emotional connection.

There must be a STORY.

Don’t sell with this content.

Address an issue in the public eye.


Branded content is a powerful awareness tool. According to IPG Media Lab, brand recall is 59% higher with content branding.

Ad Blockers do not block branded content, yet it is not invasive. If done well, it can generate strong loyalty with followers.

Solutions for Brand’s With a Smaller Budget 

If your business only has a small budget for branded content, you can still get on board this train and ride it to the station. How?

Build your list and market to them.

Look for Meetup Groups or Networking groups to build your contact list.

Create a Facebook Group where you can post your stories.

Offer free information, not products, on your website, and direct social media followers there.

Offer helpful info, hints, and tips, solve their problems without expecting them to buy your products and services.

As mentioned earlier in this article, The Lego Movie is a heartwarming story about a child’s desire to be creative versus his father’s desire to have the Lego creations set with glue.

Together they discover it is more fun to create wild things with a wild and imaginative story together, to bond.

All this is done through spectacular CGI Lego.

It could be said it is just one long advertisement for Lego products, but the story behind the product is powerful, funny, entertaining, and heartfelt. Lego became the tool used to tell the story, not the product placement intended to buy.

Red Bull’s (former) tagline was “Red Bull Gives You Wings.” And certainly, Felix Baumgartner parachuting from over 120,000 feet in the stratosphere, fits with Red Bull’s message and brand of doing extreme things and freeing yourself from the shackles of everyday life.

While the Red Bull logo was easily seen, they weren’t selling Red Bull. They were giving the world a crazy parachute event.

The stunt tripled investment for Red Bull. It was dangerous, sure, but it gave them a lot of exposure.

Coke released cans and bottles with names on them. It was a simple idea that had people trying to find specific names and then share them on social media.

If you couldn’t find your name, pop-up stations would allow you to print and stick almost any name you wanted to on a can.

It has been relaunched now with nicknames and monikers on the cans and bottles, with ‘wifey’ and ‘husband,’ ‘mate’ and more colloquialisms.

Dove put a call out for women who felt they looked different but were proud of their differences. They asked these women to send in pictures or videos and their stories about how they are body-proud.

Dove received thousands of responses and turned it into many emotional, connectable stories like YouTube videos and Instagram content.

Branded Content is a powerful way to connect with your audience and share brand stories, your brand’s message. All the big players are into it, but it doesn’t matter the size of your business nor the budget of your marketing plan — if you have a story to tell, you need to tell it.

Who has a story to tell about your brand? The owner? Employees? Customers? Get them told, share them on social media and watch your brand grow and your fans grow along with you.

Track and Analyze Brand Mentions

with Brand Monitoring

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